Google Voice Number Portability May Not Spur Adoption

Google Voice users will have the option to port their mobile phone number in the coming weeks. The service costs $20 for U.S. users only, but will it boost adoption of the service?

Google on Jan. 25 officially made number portability part of its Google Voice repertoire, allowing users to take their longtime mobile phone number to the phone-management service.

Google Voice is a phone-management application that lets any user route all their landlines, work and mobile calls through one special number and mailbox, accessible through the Web via Google's cloud-computing infrastructure.

Over the next few weeks, Google Voice users in the United States can take the mobile number they've acquired from a phone carrier and make it ring their landline, work phone and computer. There is a one-time fee of $20, and the switch usually takes 24 hours to complete, according to Google, which offers a how-to video for the process.

Porting a number to Google Voice will result in a termination of a user's contract with carriers. This will trigger an early termination fee-Verizon Wireless charges $350-as well as additional steps to retain calling capability on a mobile phone.

For example, users must procure a new mobile phone service plan and request a new number from that carrier. Google Voice users must then add the new numbers to their Google Voice account as a forwarding phone before portability will work.

Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan, who ported his mobile number to the service in August, offers his perspective on number porting.

Word of number portability coming to Google Voice blew through the blogosphere last week.

Many media members who are Google Voice users believe the arrival of portability busts a major barrier to broader adoption of the service. Some also believe this will mean the end of carrier enslavement and landlines.

But it's more likely the service will continue to wallow in relative obscurity outside the tech world. Google told eWEEK that millions use Google Voice. However, those millions are tech insiders who are users and fans of the almost-but-not-quite VOIP (voice over IP) calling service.

Google simply hasn't done a lot to market the service. Moreover, the company has raised the ire of Google Web services users outside the United States for failing to offer Google Voice overseas, where Skype is heavily used.

IDC's Irene Berlinsky told eWEEK the porting feature would appeal to consumers who resisted the hassle of educating the universe to call a new cell phone number. However, Berlinsky cautioned that the ability to port existing cell phone numbers to Google Voice is unlikely to induce many people to drop landlines.

"Poor cell phone reception at home, reliable 911 service and the ability to reach the entire household at one number are all reasons consumers hold on to home phones," she said. "If there are two people in the household, do they really want a home phone call to ring on both mobile phones simultaneously?"